Are You an Emotional Eater?
For many years, when I heard someone talking about “emotional eating,” my brain kind of turned off. I really didn’t think that label applied to me at all. I just really like food, I told myself.
When I thought of emotional eaters, I thought of horribly depressed and anxious people who dealt with their misery by eating. I knew that if I felt really sad or upset, I actually felt nauseous and didn’t want to eat. Overall, I felt I was a pretty happy and functional person, so I clearly couldn’t have an emotional eating problem!
Because I didn’t identify with that label, my brain was totally closed off to exploring emotional eating tools as a solution to my weight problem. I had even hired a dietician to help me get my eating under control, without much success.
One day last year, somehow it hit me out of nowhere. I was actually taking a shower (you know, when you actually have 2 seconds to think about yourself?) when it dawned on me.
I ate for emotional reasons.
I ate when I was happy. I ate to celebrate. I ate when I was bored. I ate when I was tired (this was a biggie for me). I ate when I felt hopeless. I ate when I was frustrated with my kids. I ate when I was completely mentally drained from my job. I lived by the motto: Pretty much every situation in life could be better if there was food involved. If I wasn’t eating, it was because I was telling myself not to, not because I didn’t want to eat.
Our emotions run the gamut from extremely happy and joyful to extremely sad and grief-stricken. Emotional eaters don’t necessarily drown their sorrows in milkshakes and brownies. Emotional eaters feel that life is just more tolerable when there’s food (typically sugar and/or flour) involved.
So once I made this realization, I ordered a Geneen Roth book from Amazon. I had heard that she was the lady for emotional eating. It was a great book, but I struggled to apply the concepts in any kind of meaningful way to my life.
The missing piece was my thoughts.
My life coach taught me how to become aware of the thoughts I was having that were driving my action of overeating. It was like a whole new world opened up for me. No joke. Once you delve into your brain and see what’s inside, there’s no turning back!
Because my action of overeating and eating for emotional reasons was such a habit, the thoughts that were creating the action of eating when I didn’t need food were super-efficient in my brain. That neural connection was extremely well-established. I had to dig deep to really find out what these long-held beliefs were so that I could air them out in the sunlight.
We have to know why we are emotionally eating before we can stop.
People I know have noticed that I’ve lost weight. They’ve asked how I did it.
I tell them that I no longer eat for emotional reasons.
Most people seem a little disappointed in that answer. I think the reason why they’re disappointed is because they don’t see themselves as emotional eaters, just like I didn’t. They’re hoping for a new diet trick that will be the solution for them. I can’t blame them because I was right where they are, not that long ago!
Next week, I’ll teach you how to become aware of your thoughts. Click here to get my Busy Doctor’s Quick-Start Guide to Effective Weight Loss and to join my email list. I’ll make sure you get an email each week so you never miss a post!